When I think of Kenya I think of the savannah, wildlife and safaris. That was until I visited Kenya in January, and actually found out there is so much more to it. I was not expecting to find beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and rich coral reefs. Out of the week we spent in Kenya, we actually spent more time at the beach in Malindi than we did in the Tsavo East National Park, where we went on a safari. In this post I will try to show you the other side of Kenya, the beautiful beaches and the best things to do in Malindi.
Malindi is a town on the South-Eastern coast of Kenya. Hotels and resorts dot the coastline and white sandy beaches of this area, with two National Parks nearby (Malindi and Watamu) that are home to turtles and colourful fish. The closest international airport is in Mombasa, approximately an hour drive away. This part of the coast is also characterized by coral reefs a short sail away from the shore, which make it such a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. If you’re an active beach person that doesn’t enjoy just sitting on the beach sun bathing, you will definitely enjoy Malindi and some of the best things to do there.
Best things to do in Malindi, Kenya
Scuba diving in the Watamu Marine National Park
My boyfriend at the time with whom I was travelling with is a keen diver, so while in Malindi we couldn’t pass out on the opportunity to scuba dive in the Watamu Marine National Park. Having broken the ice when I went diving for the first time in Thailand, I was feeling a lot more excited and less scared about this dive. We arranged the dive without a diving shop on the beach in Malindi called Blue Fin Diving. As I don’t have a PADI qualification I had to do the practice in the pool first. The following day they came to pick us up from our accommodation and drove us to Watamu, approximately a half hour drive away from Malindi.
When we got there we found a beautiful white sandy beach waiting for us, and the team prepping our scuba diving gear. The beach was relatively empty so we got to enjoy the beach for a while until our gear was ready. The book that took us out to the coral reefs was quite small, but it added to the feeling of adventure. We did two dives in two different parts of the coral reef, and it was absolutely stunning. There was such a wide variety of corals, and of so many different colours. We also saw some scary fish such as rays and morays, and lots of smaller colourful fish (watch the video to see the full footage of the dives). I found it especially beautiful as it was untainted and there weren’t lots of people there. Compared to when I went diving in Thailand, where you could see other divers every time you turned around, we were the only group for most of the time, occasionally seeing other dive boats. This was reflected in the environment, the coral reef was basically pristine, without pollution or human damage.
Snorkelling in the Malindi Marine National Park
We also visited the Malindi Marine National Park (yes I have a thing for marine parks) where we went on a snorkelling trip. We had to get a tuk-tuk to drive us there from our accommodation, it took approximately 5/10 minutes and cost us the equivalent of 3 EUR. When we got there we also had to pay access to the marine national park, which cost 130 KSH (local Kenyan currency). The beach here also had white sand and turquoise water, a feature that you can’t not love!
We had the whole boat to ourselves and it took a short sail away from the shore, where most of the fish gather. The water wasn’t particularly clear, which we were told is quite common for the time of year at which we were visiting, but it was still full of fish. Our driver kept throwing pieces of bread in the water to attract the fish, it was very fun to watch all the fish storm up to eat it. Swimming around surrounded by fish was also great fun, especially because they don’t seem to mind and let you swim easily amongst them.
Which is better? Watamu or Malindi Marine Park?
Someone asked me if they were to go to Malindi and only visit one of the marine national parks which one should it be. The answer strongly relies on the time of year at which you are visiting. I found them both beautiful, but the beaches by Malindi weren’t as nice when I was visiting as there was a lot of algae near the shore, which put me off swimming in the sea. When I got to Watamu I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the clear water and thought I liked it better. However we were then told that this is due to the season and tides. 6 months a year the beaches of Malindi are covered in algae and the Watamu beaches are clean, the other 6 months it’s the other way around; with the beaches of Malindi being clear and the ones in Watamu covered in algae. So one isn’t necessarily better than the other, there is just a better time at which to visit them.
Visit Malindi’s Golden Beach
We also went on a car trip to what is known as Malindi’s Golden Beach. It was about a half hour drive away and we had to cross a bridge with police that checked passports to get there. I was very surprised about this as we weren’t crossing any borders, but obviously decided it was better not to question it. We then drove the land drover that we had used to get to the beach to actually drive on the sand too, which was a very unusual experience. I’m very glad I wasn’t the one driving, as I would have probably ended up getting the car stuck in the sand.
As we were driving on the beach I wasn’t sure why they called it the golden beach. Yes the sand looked very yellow but calling it golden seemed like an exaggeration. The golden was only noticeable when you get out of the car and look down, and realise there are gold flecks sparkling in the sand. This is noticeable even more close to the water, where the waves wash the sparkles up and down. Even here we found the beach weirdly empty, with just a few local children playing by the shore.
Visit the local beach clubs
When we weren’t snorkeling or scuba diving we spent most of our time in Malindi hanging out at the Osteria Beach Restaurant. As you can guess this is a beach restaurant, but they also have a pool, sun beds and beach umbrellas. It’s a very relaxing place if you want to go during the day and just chill, with a direct access to yummy food. It also got pretty lively in the evenings, with dinner buffets and cocktails on the beach. It might seem like a superficial thing to praise but they also had a security guard, who would send away any insistent locals that tried selling you things on the beach. When we were at the Osteria was the only time that we were guaranteed to be around other people, some of the other beaches we visited were completely empty. I knew we were visiting during in low season, but I would have still expected there to be other people.
Where to stay in Malindi
Malindi is the typical beach resort destination. You won’t have much luck with places like AirBnb or hostels, since the majority of accommodation around there is fancy resorts. Some suggestions for places to stay at different price ranges are the following:
Malindi is an amazing place to visit, and if you’re planning a trip to Kenya for a safari, I highly recommend a detour to explore its beaches. Kenya is a beautiful country where you can have a wide variety of experiences, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an African adventure. Have you been to Kenya before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!